Climb with Hillary recalled
By Francis Stevens
The former Hawke’s Bay man who was proudly told by Mount Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary that “we knocked the bastard off”, spoke to members of the Heretaunga Tramping Club in Hastings this week.
England-based George Lowe was visiting Hawke’s Bay to pay tribute to his brother, Heretaunga Tramping Club member Arch Lowe, who died last year.
Mr Lowe gave a memorial lecture detailing a trip through Tibet and Nepal he took with his brother in 1981.
He led his brother through Tibet and Nepal to the north side of Mount Everest.
Mr Lowe began his illustrious adventuring career at the Hastings Tramping Club in the years before World War II.
The pioneer mountain climber was captain of the club when he met Sir Edmund on the back of a bus.
The pair got talking and discovered something in common.
“He told me he was from Pukekohe and his father was a bee-keeper. I told him my father was also a bee-keeper who got them through Percy Hillary,” he said.
A long and eventful friendship was born.
Sir Edmund and Mr Lowe made three exploratory trips to Nepal before they conquered Mount Everest in 1953.
Mr Lowe held camp 1000 feet below the summit as Sir Edmund and Tensing Norgay made their final assault on the 8848-metre mountain. He waited by himself for the pair to return.
When they arrived back triumphant he handed them a cup of tea. And there Sir Edmund spoke his most famous words.
Mr Lowe said he had no regrets about never making it to Everest’s summit. “They (Hillary and Norgay) were going well and a good bet that they would go all the way.” he said.
“I’ve been to the top of many other mountains and to make the first Antarctic crossing was as good an achievement.”
In 1954 Mr Lowe met Dr Vivian Fuchs and was invited to make the first trans-antarctic crossing.
The expedition across Antarctica covered 3500km and took three years to complete.
Mr Lowe would enjoy a five-week holiday while in New Zealand.
Photo caption – George Lowe, who has no regrets about the 1953 Mount Everest ascent, when he did not climb to the top.